Sacred Street Cows

“I came to Jaipur because of my ex.” The waiter told me.

“Okay, cool. Could I get the Rajasthan thali?” I asked, a bit overwhelmed by all the options on the menu and not quite sure how to respond to something like that.

“Of course,” he replied, yelling something in a local dialect to the kitchen, then turning his attention back to me.

“She broke up with me, but I just knew we had to be together. So I came here from our village. I’m a computer programmer, do you have any job leads in America? Can I get a visa?” I interrupted him to ask for a bottle of water, and to get a break. I’d taken a taxi from my hotel in the old town of Jaipur to here because I’d heard this was a good restaurant in the new town.

“She asked me to stop talking to her. And not to go see her anymore. She married some other guy. But true love never dies,” he said as he brought me my meal. And then just stopped and stared at me as I ate. Other staff members came and just stared. I was getting used to this in India, but this was a bit much.

 

Finally some other customers came in, distracting him and letting me pay the bill. My last meal in Jaipur was a bit bizarre, but of amazing quality. The food in India is unbelievably good, and I’ve been vegetarian for all this time. Meat is pretty hard to come by, and of questionable quality.

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The view from a lakeside in Pushkar, a Hindu pilgrimage village about three and a half hours by bus from Jaipur. The closest city is Ajmer, but I was able to get a ticket on the direct bus without having to connect. The winding route through the mountains was picturesque, and I kept getting text messages from my employer about whether or not I was in Wuhan. 

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The whole lakeside area was a holy site dotted with temples. NO SHOES was a common sign at Hindu temples. Also commonly seen were cows. I ended up spending four days in Pushkar just because it was so relaxing. It had a very hippie vibe, but the India hippies are quite different from their Southeast Asian counterparts.

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Grilled vegetables in mango sauce with chai masala (black tea with milk and spices) at a cafe by my hostel, where I rented a private room. The hostel was amazing, with a tree house that looked about ready to collapse at any moment, and a bonfire pit. The cafes in Pushkar were dirt cheap and great places to just look outside and daydream.

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My hostel was on a back road about a 20 minute walk from the center of the village. My second night I went out to buy a bottle of water, having realized I’d run out (the tap water in India will make you very sick). This road was dark, lit only by the stars. For some reason a fireworks display started nearby, startling the ubiquitous sacred street cows into a noisy rampage. Hoping I wasn’t about to be hit by a sacred cow, and too far from my hostel to go back, I managed to get to a corner store. The owner let me hang out there for a few minutes until it all died down, and asked me about getting an immigration visa to the US. I told him I honestly didn’t know how that worked, but I did thank him for giving me refuge from the cows. 

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I drank a mango lassi and survived to tell the tale! This cafe had really good reviews on their lassis from foreigners. The lassis from the street seemed a bit unsanitary, but the ones I had were all made with yogurt and mangos. Amazingly delicious, just like almost everything I had in India. Not once in my entire three weeks in Rajasthan did I get so much as an upset stomach.

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Beard progression at the lakeside temples of Pushkar.

After four days of eating incredible vegetarian fare and doing circuits to the temples of Pushkar, I bought a train ticket to Jodhpur. The closest station was in Ajmer, and when I asked the receptionist at the hostel how to get there he just said, “Ah, my wife is going too! I’m taking her to town, I’ll drop you off at the station.” He refused all my offers to pay him for gas and the incredibly generous ride, which helped me avoid an hour on an overcrowded chicken bus, and said just to leave a good review online. Which, of course, I did.

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The fort in Jodhpur, the Blue City. The coronavirus started getting more and more attention while I was here, and I started realizing how serious the situation was. 

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Walking around the Jodhpur fort, which sat on a hill on the edge of the Thar Desert.

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It was quite the sight!

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The buildings the Mughal Empire left behind are incredible.

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Looking out upon the Thar Desert.

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Another shot of Jodhpur as seen from the fort.

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Jodhpur had a much more relaxed feel compared to the chaos of Jaipur. I definitely developed a preference for small town India compared to the overwhelming cities.

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